Our Four Seasons 2015 Subaru WRX loved playing in the snow but sat in the body shop most of February after hip-checking a 2003 Ford Escape. By the time it emerged, $3,474.93 later, the clocks had sprung forward. The packed snow and ice that was such an advantageous playing field for the four-wheel-drive Subie is now a slurry of melting slush and salt. We’re now forced to consider how the Subaru WRX measures up as a sports car when four-wheel traction doesn’t provide a decisive edge.
Sunday morning, with the temperature at 45 degrees, we speed toward an onramp -- literally the first dry one we’ve seen in weeks. The WRX stays flat where previous iterations would have pitched and rolled. Its Michelin X-Ice tires, which we plan to leave on through March, have plenty of grip and their sidewalls don’t flex as those on other winter tires do. The steering is nicely weighted and dead-on accurate. We also appreciate the fact that, unlike in many modern sports cars, we can actually see where we’re steering. The WRX has some of the thinnest A-pillars you’ll find on a modern car. All-wheel drive still helps, allowing us to put power down before we fully unwind the steering wheel. Yet it no longer feels as if the system is bailing out an inferior suspension.
Subaru has paid close attention to other details that make sports cars rewarding, regardless of the weather. The gearbox, after more than 11,000 hard miles, still feels slick and precise, whereas those on previous WRXs felt sloppy and ropey. Cross-drilled metal pedals are nicely spaced for heel-to-toe shifting.
The natural tradeoff for better body control is a stiffer ride. Some find the 2015 Subaru WRX harsh for daily driving, especially as the March thaw rips apart already damaged roads. “You really get tossed over expansion joints, and impacts feel pretty harsh on potholes and cracks,” complains associate web editor Joey Capparella. That said, it doesn’t punish occupants nearly as harshly as the rock-hard STI. It also stays on course over mid-corner bumps, even under power.
Still, the early spring sun shines harshly on some aspects of the WRX -- quite literally on the abominable touchscreen interface, which washes out in direct light. “The touchscreen is basically impossible to use while in motion,” gripes associate editor Eric Weiner. Subaru has introduced a much better touchscreen in the Legacy, Outback, Impreza, and XV Crosstrek. It can’t come to the WRX soon enough.
On the bright side, the rest of the interior seems to have come through winter a little worse for the wear. We detect none of the squeaks or rattles Subarus are historically prone to pick up, and the comfortable cloth seats look and feel the same as when the car arrived last August.
The warmer temperatures have some of us cooling toward the turbo flat-four. The 2015 Subaru WRX, one of the fastest vehicles on the road during the winter because of its ability to put down its power, must reckon with much quicker competitors come spring. Squeezing 268 hp from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder was awfully impressive 10 or even five years ago. Not so much today when a comparably priced four-cylinder Mustang produces 310 hp.
The WRX’s distinctive turbo flavor, meanwhile, is an acquired taste. Some editors love riding the wave of torque that builds from 2,000 to 5,200 rpm. Others grow impatient waiting for it. On the other hand, the onboard trip computer indicates 25 mpg, impressive fuel economy considering we’re almost constantly on the throttle when in the city and cruise at 80 mph or faster on the highway.
The 2015 Subaru WRX is still at its best on terrain that most sports cars barely tolerate: snow, ice, and mud. But it is also a much better all-around athlete than its predecessors.
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